Am I ever ‘enough’?

by Demi Prentiss

It’s easy to forget that Jesus calls each of us to be a world-changer, even if it’s only within the three-foot radius around us. Claiming our own every-day mission means living into our ability to offer – with God’s help – God’s compassion to those who come inside that three-foot zone – and maybe, sometimes, even beyond it.

Last week, via the daily email from the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Brother Curtis Almquist offered this reminder:

Don’t ever apologize for what little you have and what little you are. Don’t ever apologize for that. God is well apprised of who we are and what we bring to the table of life. That is our offering….

There’s something about your own brokenness that informs what you have to give.  I’d even go so far as to say that the more you are broken, the more you have to give.… The bread is broken, and in the breaking is multiplied.  That is somehow your own story.

“God is well apprised of who we are and what we bring….” Just like the boy whose loaves and fishes fed a multitude (John 6:1-13), we are called to offer who we are and what we have. That’s enough, once we hand it over to the Power that created all we see and know. And sometimes, God gives us eyes to see the miracle that unfolds, once we’ve had the courage to believe that it’s God, not us, in charge of multiplication.

You are God’s viceroy, God’s representative.

You are God’s stand-in, a God Carrier.

You are precious; God depends on you.

God believes in you and has no one but you

To do the things that only you can do for God.

Become what you are.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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Are you doing drudgery or serving?

by Fletcher Lowe

One of the best known of Christ’s parables concerns two brothers and a father.   The message we get clearly is that God’s love is unconditional and outreaching.  But we rarely look at it in terms of work.

Initially both brothers disliked their work.  The younger was so fed up he wanted out – and so he asked for his inheritance and left.  The older, we learn later, saw his work as duty to the father ever though he loathed it.  “For all these years, I have been working like a slave for you….” The irony is that the younger, having fallen into desperate times, “came to himself” and was willing to return and work as one of his father’s “hired hands.”

It is all about our attitude toward what we do.  The elder brother never lost his sense of begrudging what work he was doing.  It all was about duty – no sense of using his God-given abilities to make a difference.  The younger son underwent a conversion.  He came to that point as he “bottomed out” in the “distant country,” where he was working, as a Jew, feeding pigs.  He saw working for his father no longer as drudgery but as serving.

In Episcopal worship the concluding Dismissal – the real heart of the Liturgy – calls us to such a sense of work – to use our God-given talents and abilities as serving.  Just before the congregation goes out the door into the world: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”  “And now Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you…”  “Send us now into the world in peace…to love and serve you…”  (Book of Common Prayerpp. 365-6)

13 e-quipping epigrams for missional living

Compiled and edited by Peyton G. Craighill

One-liners for those who want to live out Christ’s mission in their daily lives:

Many folks want to serve God –

But only as advisers.

When you get to your wit’s end –

You’ll find God lives there.

We’re called to be witnesses –

Not lawyers or judges.

Some minds are like concrete –

Thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.

Peace starts with –

A smile.

Don’t put a question mark –

Where God puts a period.

Forbidden fruits –

Create many jams.

Christ doesn’t call the qualified –

Christ qualifies that he called.

God promises a safe landing –

Not a calm passage.

They who anger you –

Control you.

If God is your Co-pilot –

Swap seats!

Don’t give God instructions –

Just report for duty!

The task ahead of us is never greater than –

The Power behind us.

Communicating God’s Love in the Workplace

by Pam Tinsley

I walked into the gym the other day and struck up a conversation with a friend I hadn’t chatted with in quite a while. Eventually, our conversation led to her work as a labor and delivery nurse and her consideration of retirement. She shared with me that, as much as she loves nursing, after 40 years the physical demands of the profession are telling her it’s time to slow down.

My friend’s voice revealed how conflicted she was about this major transition in her life. Nursing was what God put her on earth to do, she told me.  Even as a small child she and her family recognized her vocation because of the care she showed toward others.

She went on to describe nursing as her spiritual calling. She expressed it as life-giving – not only because of the new lives she helps moms deliver, but because of the people she comes in contact with, from colleagues to patients and their families. The relationships she forges with others, even for a short time in the hospital, are life-giving and life-changing.

“Ah,” I responded, “you’re living out your baptism. Nursing is your baptismal ministry.” No further explanation was needed. Instead, she told me about helping a woman in labor who spoke no English. With the aid of an interpreter, she communicated maintaining eye contact with the woman throughout the conversation – thus respecting her dignity. She then posed a last question through the interpreter: Do you have any questions for me? To which the woman responded, again through the interpreter, “I just wanted to tell you that I see God’s love in your eyes.”

My friend found the common language of God’s love to communicate with her patient. Sharing Christ’s love with another in need, even if only through her eyes, is one of the many ways she lives into her baptism through her spiritual calling as a labor and delivery nurse.

Have you had an experience in your daily life – at work, in the community, in the local supermarket – where your actions were shaped by your belief in a loving God and a commitment to your baptismal promises? How might another person’s life have been touched by that experience? How was your life changed?

Core of priest’s calling: listening to laity

by Fletcher Lowe

fr-bausch-by-Catherine-Love

Tom Roberts in the January 22, 2016 edition of the National Catholic Reporter shares the story of the Rev. William Bausch, a New Jersey Roman catholic priest.

As a young priest in the 1960s, while serving at St. Joseph Church in Keyport, NJ, Fr. Bausch was assigned to be the chaplain to a Christian Family Action group (known as Christian Family Movement in most dioceses). One of the rules of the lay movement required him to be silent until the meeting ended.

“I remember that they made me sit on my hands because if I can’t use my hands, I can’t talk. I was never so humiliated and humbled in my life,” he said …. “Not because I had to sit on my hands but because, forced to be silent for two years, I had to listen, really listen, to their stories of how, day after day, they struggled to be good Christians. Month after month, I listened to them struggling inwardly with shady practices at the company at which they worked, the politics of the workplace, the compromises they were forced to make, the fear of losing their jobs, difficulties with children — school, rebellion, drugs — trying to make ends meet, hardly ever getting a vacation, trying not to lose faith in hard times, struggles with prayer, not feeling God’s presence, doubts.”

Through his tenure as chaplain, said Bausch, “I knew I had found my priesthood’s core: that they, the laity, would teach me, not only the other way around.”

This “profound sense of reverence and respect” for the lives and gifts of laypeople deeply affected his approach to being a pastor. “I made it clear to the people from day one that I was there to promote and call forth the gifts and charisms they already had, to teach them who they were as a people of God, to support and learn from them….”

Blogger’s questions:

  • To the clergy: how might you facilitate listening to lay folks share their daily life stories?
  • To lay folks: how might you facilitate your clergy to hear your daily life stories?

Living everyday life as a ministry

by Demi Prentiss

In the last week I’ve encountered two stories on the internet that spoke to me in a new way. The first, usually titled “The Last Cab Ride,”  been making the rounds since about 1999, according to Snopes, which puts it in the “glurge” category for its “feel good” quality. The author, Kent Nerburn, calls it “The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget.” He tells the apparently autobiographical story of setting aside his own agenda in favor of the needs of a troublesome rider.

The second, “Being Generous Even On My Worst Day,” showed up in Episcopal Church Foundation’s Vital Posts blog. In spite of its title and being published in this season, it’s not an annual stewardship campaign pitch. Jeremiah Sierra, the author, instead talks about the transformative effect of being “stewards of our good will and the time we take to understand each other.”

Both of the authors make their way in the world in secular settings, though I’m inclined to think they would describe themselves as walking a spiritual path. Nerburn explicitly names his stint cab-driving as a ministry. Sierra, managing editor of Trinity News magazine, helps us see what “loving our neighbors as ourselves” really looks like.

Would these authors name writing or cab driving or editing as their baptismal calling? Perhaps not. But they would likely acknowledge that, with God’s help, their everyday work, at least every once in a while, has given them the opportunity to take action that has transforming results – in other words, to do God’s work.